Thursday, October 01, 2009

What if...

Ever read those Marvel comics things that explored what would have happened if some such thing or other hadn't happened in a given plotline? (Oh come on, you can admit you read comics; you can do what I do and say you did it as a kid and have, of course, long since grown out of them...ahem).

Well, Louise, who has kindly linked to my Death to Soothsayers! post below once wrote the funniest and best piece of what-if history I have ever read. I've linked to it a couple of times in the past, but it was so good it's worth revisiting regularly.

It asks,

what if Henry VIII

a. is not born, or
b. is the first person to successfully receive a personality transplant

Just think of the possibilities.

1. The monastic lands in England were not seized in 1538 - 1541

2. Hence the Great Revolt (aka “the reformation”) does not happen, because the European rulers do not learn from Henry’s disastrous policy that it is possible to go round plundering the Church for loot

Miraculously, machinery proves incapable of enslaving millions of people during Industrial Revolution, occurring as it does, within a distributive, rather than capitalist economy.

Religion and fashion:
the staunchly Catholic English population fail to become Anglicans. No-one is worried by this.

1553 Queen Elizabeth I fails to govern England properly due to non-existence caused by either a or b above.

World Decidedly Better Off.

Spared the Ruff.

Martin Luther sticks post-it note on door. Is instructed to “take a Bex and lie down.” No-one pays him much attention – it is merely “a quarrel of monks.” He sinks into obscurity after death, since Henry VIII has not given any ideas to continental princes re: Church loot.

Calvin writes tome. Causes localised kerfuffle. Tome dies natural death.

Shakespeare continues business as usual (minus ruff).

Generation upon generation can recite all his sonnets – and understand them.

public art works:
(1607) New World fails to be colonised by English, due to non-existence of puritans.

New World left entirely for Spanish and Portuguese.

Consequently, New York fails to materialise.

World Spared Statue of Liberty.

(1596-1650) Descartes gets it right: “I am, therefore I think.”

Pope Innocent X Bestows “Angelic Doctor Award for True Enlightenment.”

(1694 – 1788) Voltaire has happy childhood, fails to become git. Things continue swimmingly.

Sigmund Freud, with the help of his Confessor, overcomes his “issssues.” World Spared More Misery. Continues blissfully ignorant.

gender relations:
Since Christendom is free from constant struggles with protestants and muslims, the beauty of the Gospel continues to conform society to the mind of Christ and in time, people begin to act more equitably towards women. By this time, slavery has already been gently ousted from human history and now women are becoming the main beneficiaries.

By 1703, women in most democratic countries of the world have been given the vote. This and many other changes have ensured that women are increasingly treated with more dignity.

Consequently, Simone de Beauvoir lives good, holy life. Writes hymns, book of prayers, Life of St Clotilde. Dies in 1986 at the age of 78.

Maureen Dowd (“If you can afford to act on your craving for domesticity you are a pampered, glazed fem-bot, who gets high on homemaking”), by positive miracle of God, lives peaceably with women of all kinds. World is Staggeringly Better Off.

Oh, I can imagine it.


Some things, however, remain unchanged:
2006 Catholic bloggers have little to report – fight among selves.

Endlessly discuss whether the predominant economic system throughout the world is “Distributism” or “Distributivism.”

The vicious Grammar Wars ensue…

Schism narrowly avoided.


Anonymous said...

I'm dead chuffed, I am!

Zach said...

Cool! A fellow What If? geek!! I loved those Way Back When™, and scrounged thoroughly in the back issue bins for them whenever I could.

Back before my collection disappeared into the Void, I had in my possession for a while What If #1, with Uatu explaining the whole multiverse...

"Who, me? Interfere? Never."


Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Wait, I know this one.

Uatu is The Watcher, right?

Zach said...


Dymphna said...

Wait a second, if America had been colonized by just the Spanish and Portugese we'd be like Latin America. No thanks.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

yes, but it would be like Latin America without the communism (or the backlash against it), so it would probably be great.